Super Friends @SUPERCON 2022: Vol II, Pt II: Tremani Sutcliffe

Welcome back to Volume 2, Part 2 of Super Friends @Supercon 2022. The second artist we’re featuring is Tremani Sutcliffe.

Walking the floor at Florida Supercon in July, I was drawn to this artist’s work because of her unique creature and character design. They were all set in these wonderful fantasy worlds and beautiful environments.

I spoke to her a bit about her unique art style, the process of trying to find the perfect program to create digital art, and lots more. We even talked about some of her favorite games and fantasy series.

After meeting her I was able to send her some questions to answer and you can check out the interview below, along with some of her artwork.

You’ve been drawing since a young age. Did you attend any form of art school or program?

I always wanted to go to either the Academy of Art University or Watt’s Atelier, but the finances and timing haven’t worked out. I did take a few classes at AAU, a couple life drawing classes at college in Alaska, and subscribed to where I learned from Matthew Archambeau; an illustrator who teaches at SVA.  

Mostly I’ve learned by finding artists whose work is significantly better than mine and comparing our work. I ask myself what they did that I didn’t and then experiment until I understand their process. Then I move on to another artist. I’ve also been watching tutorials and reading every book on painting theory I could find since I was thirteen.

Can you tell me a little about your process?

For me, drawing is where creativity comes into the process and painting is where you get to make it awesome. I always start off with about twenty creature or character designs that fit the concept I want to work on. Out of those I limit the ones I will paint to only one or two of the designs. This helps me narrow it down to the ones that are really working. 

When I work digitally, I photograph my drawing and then paint on top of it. I mostly use Photoshop and Krita. When working in Photoshop, I pre-mix my colors just like I would with an oil painting and then work underneath a black and while layer mask while color selecting from my pre-mixed palette. It cuts down on the time it takes to do a painting and gives me more time to have fun with the environments surrounding my characters. 

Where do you find inspiration? You mentioned some fantasy series.

I think The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64 is one of the first things that sparked my imagination when I was young, but I continually draw inspiration from almost everything I encounter. If something has dramatic lighting, interesting texture, cool colors, or composition it will give me ideas. 

I have a hard time playing games sometimes, because I keep wanting to pause the game and go draw whatever idea pops into my head. I love the lighting and metal work in the Halo games, the grit and textures in Call of Duty, costume designs from Skyrim, but right now I’m loving the character concepts in League of Legends.  I can’t even start playing Magic the Gathering or look at a Pathfinder book because that awesome imagery sends me running for my sketchbook. 

What is it like to sort of “relearn” how to draw and paint digitally?

I’m happy with my digital painting process now, but I haven’t found a program yet that allows me to digitally sketch in a way that feels remotely similar to how I draw with a pencil. If I could find something that did, I’d have the dorkiest grin on my face for the next ten years. 

Your website (Decisive Art Academy) features your portfolio, as well as some learning resources. Have you taught in-person art classes before, and did the pandemic force you to move it online?

It’s a bit of a combination. I started an art instruction studio and did “paint night” sessions when I managed an art gallery in Alaska. I hadn’t done much since moving to Utah, but when COVID hit, my niece told me they had canceled all the “fun stuff” at her school to make room for social distancing. This included art classes.

I looked for an online option for her, but everything I found was either “cut the paper and glue it” projects for kids or included a lot of nude figure drawing. So, I decided to build something that would provide art instruction that would be accessible to a wider audience. 

Also, as much as I love art; learning by painting a bowl of fruit was torture, even for me. I figure, why not teach the same principles while painting dragon eggs instead? 

Have you worked on any commissions or other projects for hire you would like to share? What’s it like to execute someone else’s vision vs your own? What are the pros and cons? 

I have worked on some illustrations that are still in the production pipeline, so I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about them yet. However, when I was young my parents didn’t have money for art supplies, so I started selling my work when I was thirteen. 

I wound up doing a lot of portraits for clients so I could buy more supplies. I did that for about ten years, and it was very boring; but I had a picture frame that I built with my Dad. It was one of the last things we did together before he lost his fight with cancer, and I wanted something inspirational to put in it. 

So, when I found out that Sanderson was coming to Alaska for a book signing, I painted something that would fit in the frame. Sanderson was just being nice to some random person in the line, but he said I should make a portfolio. So, I did. And, there has been a noticeable difference between doing portraits vs fantasy illustration for clients, because doing the type of work that I enjoy has made the entire process smoother. 

Now, if a client wants something changed it just means I get to do more of something I enjoy. The most important thing in the process is clear communication about expectations and not getting overly attached to your work. When you look at your painting process as a continuous flow of revisions it becomes easy to make any necessary changes. At that point a client’s vision isn’t a ball and chain, it is a source of ideas and inspiration. 

What’s your ultimate goal/dream job as an artist?

Honestly, I would enjoy working on anything within the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres; but aside from character design, creature design, and environment design, I would also like to do more illustrative work. Cards for Magic the Gathering or other game art, etc. 

I want to thank Tremani for taking the time to answer these questions and allowing me to share some of her wonderful artwork.
You may even catch her at a Con near you.

If you would like to see more from Tremani you can check out her site:

Instagram: tremanisartistries

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